Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Marumo Japanese Kitchen

Marumo Japanese Kitchen on Urbanspoon

I first encountered this Japanese gem by a "I Eat To Live rather than the other way around" friend who asked for my humble opinion on this degustation restaurant.
I decided I would have to answer that question in approximately 2 months time (which was their next available slot for dinner!)

After a begrudgingly long wait of 1/6 of a year and following GPS directions which I was certain were taking us on an adventure rather than to dinner, I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel that was Marumo.

I don't think I have ever waited (or driven) that long for a dinner.
Marumo Japanese Kitchen
Marumo Japanese Kitchen was a very unheard of restaurant by yours truly, nestled in the middle of nowhere in a quiet suburban street.
The appearance itself is simple, plain and unpretentious, and totally surprising for such a highly commended and talked-about restaurant; not at all reflecting what Chef Moe can really do!

The 7 courses are presented slowly but at a consistent pace, with ample time in between for getting to know your dining partner on a first date (or getting to know your partner too much on the 100th date).

Dates schmates. I sat down feeling jittery and excited, these feelings purely evoked by the greatly anticipated dinner ahead.
Wakame Salad & Green Tea
With my appetite subconsciously preparing itself for the first course of gyoza, this was nicely interrupted when we are presented with a teaser-sized starter of my favourite;
the wakame salad - with the first strand crunchy, fresh and as addictive as the last one I painstakingly pick up with my not-consolidated chopstick skills.

Pork Gyoza
Pan-fried gyoza can be all the rave when done deliciously, and these sure fit that category.
Sometimes it can be the small serving that makes them objects that are lusted after, but I know I could down a dozen of these in one sitting.
And scary thing is, I'm not even joking.

Japanese Pork Gyoza
Delicate little pillows with pleasingly imperfect dumpling edges are what makes these Japanese pork dumplings so real and homemade.

A juicy meat filling wrapped in slightly crispy pan-fried skin lightly sprinkled in chilli seasoning renders my dish of ponzu vinaigrette obsolete in this instance.

 The 2nd course brings korokke, a lightly fried and delightfully crunchy crumbed vegetable croquette with shichimi lime mayo skid mark art on the food canvas.

Chicken Yakitori
Upon informing the chef when booking regarding inevitable dietary requirements, Marumo kindly substitutes the menu item that poses a problem for you and prepares another dish that caters to your needs.

Playing it safe, I steered away from all fried items and dishes involving cheese.
I was presented with 2 plump skewers of succulent grilled chicken instead, much to A's jealousy and dismay.

As expected, these chicken thigh pieces were so moist and tender, served with mayonnaise and a slightly thickened sweet soy sauce.

Chawan Mushi
I get egg-cited by eggs any day (oh dear) but admittedly seeing this on the menu was initially a disappointment, for I am underwhelmed by the chawan mushis I have come across (and partly because I am accustomed to Dad's fantastically slippery smooth steamed eggs dish).

I was met with happiness after I plunged my spoon into the depths of that savoury steamed egg custard to meet with the Mt Barker chicken pieces at the base, along with the thinly sliced mushrooms set in egg.

With each spoonful put into my mouth along with that single split green bean, I am pleased to report the wobbly egg custard is as smooth as a baby's bottom. And as delicious too, as babies' bottoms are delicious.

A delectable presentation of sashimi is served next, in a ruler's length boat shaped dish. The chef's selection of assorted sashimi tonight is a mixture of Tasmanian Salmon, Yellowfin Tuna and Fremantle Kingfish served with delicately thin garnishes.

Floats my boat anyday!

Why oh why is there so little of you?
If the thought of raw fish isn't your cup of tea and slimy comes to mind, it would be hard to convert non-sashimi enthusiasts to like this.

However in another world where the word slimy would be an insult to describe sashimi, smooth and silky are much more acceptable adjectives for these lusted after pieces of fresh fish.

Tempura Prawn Sushi
A course in a Japanese degustation unsurprisingly features the epitome of Japanese cuisine - the ubiquitous sushi roll.

On the menu at Marumo was a crispy prawn tempura uramaki roll pressed with seasoning and sesame seeds, layered with lightly torched pieces of salmon belly and garnished with tobiko to finish.

So same, but so different
Salmon Sushi Roll Sandwich!
Following on from my no fried food policy requested, the chef has so fittingly replaced the tempura prawn filling with raw salmon - I was ecstatic! Little did I know my food intolerances made me an even happier diner that night :)

This salmon-on-salmon action was a delicious partnership and this concoction resulted in deliciously creamy mouthfuls.

Lemon & Orange Sorbet
Being ever so considerate of diners' appetites, the delivery of this palate cleanser was the most welcome addition to the dinner, whose different flavours was fast approaching the state of Muddle.

The small shooter glass of icy cool lemon and orange sorbet included slithers of orange zest was a most refreshing break between all the creamy, protein-esque courses that lined, settled and prepared the stomach for the finale of courses ahead.

Miso Soup
Up next, a bowl of piping hot miso soup, in great contrast to the coolness still lingering in the stomach from the ice cold, citrus sorbet.

To my great surprise, by this point in time I had enough. So really, that advice you always hear about eating slowly to feel fuller is no myth at all!

5 courses later, this is what I see as the main course of the night. I am grasping my stomach too much to really appreciate the flavours of this grilled Fremantle cod; with its smooth yet firm flakiness throughout.

I found no difficulty however, in finishing off the green cabbage salad on the side (seriously!), dressed with a fragrant sesame sauce, and that crisp lotus root chip that shattered delightfully between my teeth.

Fully aware of the stomach's limits, the waiter asks each diner whether they would like a bowl of rice to accompany the fish course. 11 times out of 10 I am always hungry for rice, but this time I am relieved we have decided on one bowl to share instead.

Sometimes, saying no is the best thing you could do for yourself.

Goma Ice Cream
It is an unwritten rule that meals like these must definitely end on a sweet note!

Dessert presentation was elegantly simple and did not disappoint, with a scoop of black sesame speckled ice cream balanced on a bed of roasted crushed peanuts underneath and a sweet, syrupy strawberry compote on the side.

Licked this plate clean (with my fork). Definitely a sweet ending :)

One day, I will see a real cherry blossom tree!
Snagged a good position, seated right beneath the stars and cherry blossom tree ;)

View from outside of Marumo
Showcasing Japanese inspired dishes, the chef offers an intimate but casual dining experience cooking from his open kitchen for a small crowd, much like a private dinner function at home.

Despite the minimal, simplistic set up of the restaurant, Marumo still manages little touches of Japan with its wall sticker displays, ornaments, small figurines and bottle display cabinets present in the small shop front.

Less distractions for us means more concentration in the food; so indeed, a wise idea to invest more thought into the food instead :)


Initially underwhelmed by the exterior then pleasantly overwhelmed by the quality of dinner that night, Marumo more than deserves all the praise it receives from all the happy and full diners that have emerged from this humble little dining venture that is capable of amazing things.

Dinner operates from an omakase menu, meaning the selection of dishes is up to the chef; and trust the chef you should. The menu changes seasonally and is dependent on availability of fresh produce, and is a steal at $39 per person - definitely one of the cheapest degustation dinners around.

I will also sing praises about the efficiency and quality of the service of staff that night (which came to a grand total of 2 people). Perfectly timed delivery between courses still meant the duration of dinner was spread out over 3 hours of non-stop eating from 7pm, with constant refills of green tea and immediate replies from email enquiries.

Grieving over how malnutritioned my wallet is looking at the moment, degustation dinners are out of my league for a while...or until I can secure my next booking at Marumo!
Because most times, delayed gratification is for the better.

Dinner Tuesday - Sunday: 7pm to 10pm
(08) 9310 8255
Cash only. BYO $1.50.

Check calendar on site for available dates


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